Egypt has undergone a coup, deposed its leader and the military has installed a new president. The situation is unpredictable, unstable and volatile. The country remains in a state of unrest.
What do we do? We send them F-16s.
U.S. law states that we can’t send military and other types of aid to any country whose duly elected head of state is deposed by a coup. U.S. law clearly says that we cannot send such aid where the military plays a decisive role in the coup.
This law allows no presidential waiver. Aid cannot be reconsidered or restored until a democratically elected government is elected.
Yet, as President Obama has so often done with other laws and even the Constitution, he ignores it.
The Obama administration has refused to acknowledge that the military takeover in Egypt is a coup. When asked directly to spell out the State Department’s definition of a coup, spokeswoman Jen Psaki refused, saying only that, “I’m happy to get you that, but I wouldn’t ascribe, you know, specific words. Each scenario is different. And if you need our specific, formal, government definition, we’ll get that around to everybody.”
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The State Department has yet to send a response.
We once had a president who parsed the meaning of the word “is.” Now we have a president who denies a coup has taken place in Egypt when, by any conventional definition, it most certainly has. The president of Egypt was placed under house arrest. The military took over the television stations. The military took control of local police and all forms of local and national government.
Still, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN, “If this were to be seen as a coup, then it would limit our ability to have the kind of relationship we think we need with the Egyptian armed forces.”
Thursday morning, it was reported that this relationship included delivering four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt in the next few weeks in addition to the eight we sent in January. Another eight are scheduled to ship later this year.
To what end?
In January 2011, some of the jets we gave to President Hosni Mubarak were used to intimidate protesters — the same people whose protests helped to overthrow Mr. Mubarak and replace him with Mohammed Morsi. Not surprisingly, Gallup reported in February 2012 that 71 percent of Egyptians opposed U.S. foreign aid to their country.
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When both Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Morsi were overthrown, protesters held signs criticizing U.S. aid to “dictators.”
It should also be noted that when the Egyptian military helped oust Mr. Mubarak — the classic definition of a coup d’etat — the Obama administration also declined to acknowledge even then that a coup had taken place.
When we continued giving F-16s to Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood after Mr. Mubarak, I offered an amendment to stop military aid to Egypt.
It was defeated 79-19.
The United States has cut off weapons aid in the past after military officers overthrew civilian governments in the Ivory Coast, the Central African Republic, Fiji, Honduras and Mali. In Egypt, however, where the regimes are constantly changing, our foreign-aid policy never does.
This week, I introduced legislation again that would cut off foreign aid to Egypt. We either have a nation of laws, or we don’t. If we are a nation of laws, foreign aid to Egypt should immediately end.
If instead, we are now just governed by popular prejudice and unlimited executive ability to contravene the law, then perhaps we should be looking at Washington to determine whether or not a coup has occurred.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Homeland Security committees.